Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Silver Screen

The term "silver screen" is used now to give a glamorous air to movies.  You've heard it in gossip magazine write-ups:  "Starlet X, a fixture of the silver screen . . ."  The term actually has a practical origin stemming from film's beginnings.  For decades, films were in black and white and greatly benefited from being shown against a highly reflective surface to sharpen contrast in the grays.  Theaters coated screens with silver compounds to increase this reflective quality, hence the term "silver screen."

I mention this because (a) it's interesting and (b) black and white movies deserve some love.  A few days ago, I went to see a big screen presentation of Casablanca, a film I've adored since I first saw it as a teenager.  I'd never seen it on the big screen and let me tell you - it really is a different experience.  Casablanca is 70 years old this year and the screening was part of TCM's "birthday party" for the film. Look - there's nothing to not like about this film.  It's got romance, it's got the buddy angle, heck - it's got Nazis, and you just can't go wrong having Nazis as the bad guys in a movie!  (Keeping in mind that the film was released during World War 2, you've also got the "film as propaganda" angle to discuss.)  The writing is sharp, the stars are gorgeous (really - Ingrid Bergman on the big screen is nearly celestial in her beauty and Bogart is a man's man in a sharply-cut dinner jacket) and the costuming makes me wonder just how many trunks these war refugees are traveling with.  It's a wonderful yarn and seeing it with 170 other fans (one of whom dressed in a white dinner jacket, probably with letters of transit in the inner pocket) was an experience I'm glad I had.  TCM has a great series of articles, video clips, and links - check that out here.  And remember, when you're next thinking about what movie to watch - just because it's been around for a while without a remake doesn't mean it's not worth your time.  (Ack!  A remake of Casablanca?  How?  Why?  A parody - that I could support.)

Oh, and those "letters of transit" on which so much of the plot hangs?  An excellent example of a MacGuffin.

The film class is wrapping things up.  I have their comparisons of Cowboy Bebop and Serenity to finish evaluating (space opera or space Western?  Hmmmm.) and District 9 was the final class film this past week.  The students' creativity in their individual projects left me feeling pleased with the class overall - they mastered the technical aspect of submitting an original project online (or at least wrestled the tech to the ground and pinned it) and demonstrated an understanding of their assigned concepts.  Not bad.  Not bad at all!

No comments: